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Employee Engagement

The latest multifamily research and data regarding the impact of employee engagement on resident retention, online reputation, and revenue growth.

Resident Retention: Material Girl

It’s true that we are living in a material world, but some of us are more cunning in the way we finagle those materials. There are times when the customer’s idea of ‘compromise’ or ’solutions’ has to do with monetary compensation from you to them, regardless of the situation that is in need of resolution. The power was out for 2 hours. Why not a rent credit? The broken sprinkler splattered the newly washed and waxed car. A rent credit would be nice. A check would be nicer. The more aggressive “Material Girls and Boys” may even threaten lawsuits or Fair Housing complaints if they feel they are not getting their way. It’s a fine line we walk when it comes to providing exceptional customer service. After all, the customer is always right, right? Not necessarily. In the business world, and especially in the multifamily housing world, we have to face the fact that the owner is always #1, and one of the ways we can respect the owner is to treat the resident as though he or she is #1. This means that when a resident wants something for nothing, we have to consider the financial well being and the values of the company first, and the demands of the customer second. Where is the win-win? Listen to the problem with empathy and ask for specifics. Find out what the resident believes is a fair solution and why. Try to keep the conversation moving toward what specifically would resolve the......
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Resident Retention: I Swear

I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but sometimes it seems that profanity and expletives have become more common in regular business interactions. And there are a few that take those choice words to a whole new level when they are not happy with the service or the answers you provide. What to do when a very disgruntled resident decides to rapid-fire every nasty, dirty, rude, crude and foul word in your direction to try and get what they want? Control your physical or verbal reaction, because a reaction is often what the person is looking for. By catching you so off-guard and putting you in a potentially humiliating situation, he or she is betting on the fact you'll agree to anything just to get them out of your hair. In many cases, it's very effective to take the bull by the horns and say, "Did I personally do something to offend you? If so, I'd like the opportunity to apologize." This turns the tables a bit. Most often the person will admit that it wasn't anything you did, personally, and they will then tell you the real situation (giving you the opportunity to provide a solution!). Calmly agree, but selectively. When the resident goes off about how ?#@*&%! ridiculous it is that she didn't have any hot water, go ahead and agree. "Twenty minutes is a long time to wait for the hot water to be restored. I can see why you are upset." And then continue with......
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Resident Retention: I'll Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Egocentrics. You know the type: the world is their stage. The world is their audience. The sun rises and sets for them. You, and everyone else, are there as an extra or bit of scenery for their performance. It's truly all about them. The only person they will speak to is the highest ranking employee in whatever establishment they are in. They see no need to wait in lines. Manipulation is a favorite past time through dropping names of their important or powerful friends. Their acts of superiority and loud demands can be exhausting and intimidating. However, they are our customers, so it's important to have some tools and tips in your back pocket for when these encounters do happen. Special treatment is not necessary or appropriate, however simple acts such as remembering his or her name can make the individual feel like the VIP they believe they are.Taking some kind of immediate action can demonstrate your capability as a problem solver, something an Egocentric doesn't expect from anyone. If a measurable step is shown, there is a much greater likelihood that the individual will be more willing to work toward a resolution with you (not just your supervisor).Avoid stating policy or standards, since Egocentrics generally feel the rules don't apply to them. Use wording such as, "I'd like to offer you..." and then offer what you can offer anyone.Focus on looking approachable, pleasant, and willing to help. Often our inner cringing translates too clearly to our facial expression and posture.......
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Resident Retention: Accentuate the Positive

"I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do." Grrr.As a customer, there's nothing worse than those words. As a customer, I don't want to hear about what you Can Not do for me. I want to hear what you Can do for me. And yet, as service providers, we are often asked to do more with less. Less capital, less staff, less flexibility in work hours or time off, and more. So how do we find a way to say , "yes" to our resident concerns and requests, when all we are hearing from our budgets is "no?"It's time to Accentuate the Positive! It's easy to say no. With our hands tied regarding some of the bigger capital needs of our communities for the time being, it gets exhausting trying to explain the situation over and over to different residents who are looking for an improvement. The important thing is to find a way to say "yes" to something. There's not enough in the budget to replace this long-term resident's carpet? Can we offer to steam clean? Not all the elevators can be replaced this year, but can we replace some of the hardware to make them look a little better until the capital can be approved? According to our research, in the top five satisfaction topics that have the greatest impact on the resident likelihood to renew, "office staff responsiveness and dependability" rank as #3, and "office staff courtesy and professionalism" rank as #4. How residents perceive our willingness to assist them......
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Resident Retention: Movin' On Up

  or  ?I just got back from Boise, Idaho recently to visit family and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Northwest U.S.  I found out a cousin who has been living with her parents for various family reasons is now looking for a rental situation. I asked her what kinds of deals she was finding in the apartment market in Boise, and while she told me what I expected to hear – that the move-in deals were pretty amazing – she had chosen to submit a rental application for a single family home with a yard. This is no new story to any of us, and she shared all the reasons we’ve heard before: - Fenced in yard - Same price as an apartment - No shared walls - Lots of space - And the neighborhood even had a pool and clubhouse! Yes, the shadow market is alive and well, there’s no point in denying that. We’re competing with it for prospects as well as our existing residents! While there are many experts on the leasing side who can offer strategies and approaches to get new prospects in the door, there is a need to continue to use some of these same strategies to keep the residents we have. Remember the TV show, The Jeffersons? The theme song is all about moving to a “deluxe apartment.”  How do we re-kindle that pride of residency in our own community?  When it comes to existing residents telling us at renewal time that they......
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Resident Retention: Forever Yours... Faithfully

SouthwestThe NAA Education Conference was a whirlwind day trip for me. I was only able to fly in on Friday morning and fly out that evening. It was a great experience! I got to match many names with faces and have a some great conversations. There were very positive comments flying around about how impactful the conference had been for the attendees as well as the exhibitors. As you can imagine, knowing that I only had 1 day to dive into the conference, I had to put tremendous faith in the airlines. There was no room for delays or flight cancellations. Knowing that I could not allow for any margin of travel error, I chose to fly Southwest. They are known for their great track record for on time departures, and when it comes to Las Vegas in particular there are no other airlines that can even come close in the reliability rankings. I don’t care for the “cattle call” although they have improved that process somewhat. I am a bit tired of the “no frills” peanuts. But I can count on them, and they did not fail me on this trip. There was a twist however. I arrived safely home on Friday night, and in the morning I found an email waiting for me from Southwest. With all the emails – both personal and junk mail – I receive on a daily basis, this actually did stand out. There was nothing more to the message. Just this thank you, with......
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Resident Retention: Boys (or Girls) of Summer

  Summer is here, and we’re all waiting to see what levels of turnover will occur. Our typical summer experience, especially where our maintenance teams are concerned, is an increase in turnovers and the increased focus on getting newly vacated apartments ready for potential new move-ins. The result?  Existing residents may have to wait a little longer to have a service request issue resolved. It might take a little longer to hear back on the status of an ordered part or a scheduled vendor. But wait! Doesn’t it seem strange that we would prioritize empty apartments above our rent-paying customers? It’s almost as frustrating as standing in the check-out line, money in hand, to buy the perfect prom dress, but the clerk is busy dressing the mannequin in the store window and can’t be bothered. Something’s wrong with this picture! We see the cycle. We know the cycle. There are times of the year that typically bring an increase in turnover, and times of the year that typically experience less turnover.  Knowing this, what if we did something radical – something that turns what has been the norm in our industry for years and years on its ear? What if we reduced or retired our monthly resident events (that may draw a handful of attendees) and shifted those dollars to that time of year when we know turnover is traditionally heaviest? What if we shifted those dollars to hire temporary, part-time maintenance help to ensure our existing residents were never aff......
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Resident Retention: And I want, And I need, And I love... Cellulars

cell phoneThe Pew Research Center just came out with a new study. You may have read about in the paper over the weekend. It takes a look at the trends of what we (Americans) consider luxuries versus necessities. Some of the more interesting findings, from a property management and owner perspective, is that there are some things that are falling from that "necessity" list. Air conditioning, for example, fell 16 points on the necessity scale compared to it's 2006 rating. The microwave fell 21 points. High speed internet, however, increased by 2 points, and the cell phone remained steady with 50% of Americans considering it a necessity. Given our swift and drastic shift toward all things online, it is imperative we keep up with these preferences - especially when we see that it's not a matter of "Nice to have" (aka "Luxury") but of "Need to have" (aka "Necessity"). Please realize that a cell phone is no longer just a phone. All cell phones can send and receive emails via the text message function. Many cell phones have web browsers where residents (and prospects) can view web sites, check their bank account balances, shop for shoes, and conduct all manner of business with you. The question is, are you ready? Based on our resident survey results, email has become far and away the preferred method of communication with the leasing office. In 2007, 30% of residents preferred this communication method. In 2008, this number jumped to 59%! Resident preferences are changing quickly......
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Resident Retention: Time After Time... On an Airplane

Note: This was NOT my experience!!!Yesterday, the unthinkable happened. I was on three separate flights, and they were All On Time. Yes, you read that correctly. All three flights (2 separate airlines), were on time and even a couple of minutes early. Thank you Delta and Horizon. I can't tell you how overjoyed I was!  Note: This was NOT my experience!!!And then I began to think how absurd it was that I was that ecstatic over a service provider doing what it says it will do. I've written on the subject before, and I'll just have to do it again, because every time I run into an example, I think it's hilarious how excited I get that someone has done exactly what they have promised to do. It doesn't matter if the provider has spelled out the promise or has simply implied it. Our experience of service in this world is such that we often expect disappointment. What are the promises you have explicitly (fully and clearly expressed) or implicitly (implied, rather than clearly stated) given your residents and prospects? Do you know how well you are delivering on your promises? Some promises your prospects and residents believe you have made: The agreed-upon apartment will be completely clean and all appliances and fixtures will be in good working order when I move in;I will be treated as well as all the other residents, and that means we all experience courtesy and respect;Service requests are easy to submit, and it will be addressed within 48 hours (though......
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Resident Retention: All Night Long

technologyYou should see the tweets regarding the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) Conference! (For those of you not yet on Twitter, well, all I can tell you is this is the next wave you should be riding).  While hundreds of brilliant minds are focusing on internet marketing strategies and trends, here I am thinking about internal marketing and the role the internet plays. We can't ignore the presence of technology in our world and in our communities.  How we shop, communicate, pay our bills, complete school homework, and even how we work is changing dramatically. In fact, when residents were surveyed regarding their preferred hours of access to the leasing office, nearly 15% of residents said they wanted 24/7 accessibility! Can we staff our management offices all night long? (All night?) The answer is, while we may not be able to physically staff our management offices, we can increase the hours in which residents can conduct business with us. And technology is the answer. How? Do you have online service request submission? Do you offer online rent payments? Do you have office email addresses? Do you have online community news? If you have at least one of these offerings, you have just 'virtually extended' your office hours! The question is: Do your residents know? You know how relentless you are with marketing your vacant apartments. Whether through print ads, online sites, craigslist, etc., there is constant attention drawn to you in the marketplace. Or, at least, that's the goal. It's time to......
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